Evaluation Essay

Your second essay will be an evaluation. It should be 3-4 pages long. (That means full
pages—to the bottom of the third page or the bottom of the fourth). Most classes at this
level require 4-6 pages for this assignment. You should aim to incorporate the ideas and
rigor of an essay that length—plus concise writing.
Evaluations measure a subject’s value or success. They answer questions such as:
• Is ______ a good or bad ______?
• How good/bad is ______?
• Is ______ better than ______?
These can include both everyday arguments (Is plain oatmeal a good breakfast?), or
arguments that have profound impacts on our lives (Is teaching a good career?), but the
key is that they have to be debatable. You might want to argue, for example, that
Leonardo DiCaprio is a good actor, but would any reasonable person disagree? Probably
not. The man has an Oscar! Tom Cruise, on the other hand? Now that’s debatable.
Whatever your subject, you must assert yourself by making a strong claim about its
value or success. This claim will drive your thesis sentence.
Your next step will be to come up with valid criteria for your evaluation. These are fair
and appropriate standards for judging your subject, and they should go beyond the
obvious. When people think about what makes a good breakfast, for example, usually
they think of nutrition. That’s one good criterion, but don’t we also judge breakfasts on
taste, convenience, and price? If so, then those are all necessary criteria.
These criteria should give you a good outline for your argument. You must now prove
that your subject does (or does not) adequately fulfill the criteria. That means using
strong rhetorical techniques to support your ideas. The best arguments will use a
variety of techniques from all three appeals to support each criterion:
• Provide good evidence through data, facts, examples, and reasoning (logos).
• Show you’re trustworthy through personal expertise, quotes from experts,
research, and respect for the opposition (ethos).
• Make it interesting with stories, vivid imagery, or humor (pathos).
You should imagine your argument is an opinion column in the The Daily Barometer.
While you will need to remain professional, you might also consider the content and style
that would appeal to your audience: other students at OSU. Use your knowledge of
this audience’s values and interests to craft the most convincing argument you can.
Please see the next page for guidance on choosing a topic.
Evaluation Topics
Fruitful Places to Check
• Controversies in the news: Issues of evaluation are often embedded in them
• Your area of study: Most disciplines are always pushing their boundaries into new
areas that evoke evaluative disagreements
• Other areas that interest you: You might already know the evaluative
controversies within them
Other Potential Areas for Topic Ideas
The point is not to evaluate an entire area but to search the area for a specific subject to
evaluate—i.e., Tom Cruise as an actor, not entertainment as a whole.
1. Campus Life
2. Education & Career
3. Entertainment & Music
4. Art & Literature
5. Food & Health
6. Sports & Games
7. Politicians & Laws
8. Science & Conservation
9. Products & Technology
10. Whatever won or didn’t win your favorite award
• Bob Dylan got the Nobel Prize in Literature? What a joke!
Don’t Do This: Common Problems
Don’t choose a subject that’s overly broad. It will be hard to argue that action stars
are good or bad actors, or that breakfast is a good or bad meal. There are too many
action stars and breakfasts to adequately cover them all. Instead, choose one action
star (i.e., Tom Cruise) or one breakfast (i.e., plain oatmeal) to evaluate.
Don’t write a proposal. That is, don’t argue what readers should do about it, such as
eating more oatmeal or watching more art house cinema. If you advocate for action,
you’ll write a different kind of argument that won’t meet the standards for this essay.
(This applies to the topic only, not the conclusion or other parts of the essay.)
Don’t use criteria that are unfair, such as “winning Academy Awards.” Can’t an
actor be good even if they haven’t won this award? Better to figure out why actors
win Academy Awards and use that as your criteria. In fact, that’s exactly what the
Academy does to distribute its awards! (Awards, however, might support the idea that
your subject meets a criterion, such as being respected by colleagues.)

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